Abraham Lincoln Life Mask, ca. 1880
I bought a house in Wilmington, Illinois, in 1944. And when we were going through the attic trying to clear out some of it, I found this mask wrapped up in cardboard box and paper. Rather than just put it away in a box, we took it to the public library and it was on display there for over 30 years.
This is a life mask of Abraham Lincoln. An artist named Leonard Volk in 1860 was commissioned by the government to do a full-size bronze casting of Lincoln's head. And it took about an hour to get this plaster to set up on his face, and Lincoln complained terribly about that. They had to put straws up his nose and then they had plaster over his face for almost an hour and he really disliked it a lot. Then some people that were affiliated with the Smithsonian found out about it in the 1880s, I believe, and they commissioned a company to do reproduction plaster casts of Lincoln's life mask as well as his hands. They also did bronzes. And you can see right here on the back there's a brass label right here that tells the manufacturer and the fact that they were in Chicago and Milwaukee at the time. You have a very desirable piece of Americana. I would estimate that this would probably be worth somewhere in the $1,500 to $2,000 range.
Good gracious. That's half of what I paid for the house and everything when I bought it. (laughing)
Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.
Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."
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Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.
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